Coaching the New Hire

Companies will often hire a business coach for long-term employees in order to prepare them for their next challenges within the organization. Fewer organizations consider coaching recent hires, even though it’s an optimal time to engage a coach’s skills.

Joining a new company is a high-stress time for most people. A new company has a new set of rules, a different corporate culture, and a completely different cast of characters. Often a new hire has been recruited from a good job where she was recognized for her contribution within the firm and had a certain degree of job security; change feels scary. Even if a new hire was not thrilled with his past job and was actively looking for a change, there is comfort with “the devil you know.” While some companies have a formal onboarding program to help ease a new hire into the role, many, including most start-ups, do not. Even those companies that have a formal orientation process tend to focus on explaining the policies and procedures contained in the employee handbook rather than addressing what a new hire wants to know: details about the specific role, the makeup of the team, the resources available, and the immediate performance expectations. Often the hiring manager is too busy to properly welcome a new hire and, even if one does not run into The Office‘s Michael Scott (“Listen, why don’t we just leave that position vacant? Truth be told, I think I thrive under the lack of accountability”) or Dwight Schrute (“Hazing is a fun way to show a new employee that she is not welcome or liked”), peers and subordinates do not always have the time or inclination to help acclimatize a new team member. This can all lead to stress for a new employee.

While a moderate level of stress is good for productivity, the Yerkes-Dodson model shown below illustrates that too much stress has a negative effect on the ability to perform the type of complex tasks expected of a mid- to high-level employee.

OriginalYerkesDodson

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Stress in the workplace consists of relationship tension (the tension that comes from working with others: call it office politics) and the tension of the task itself (managing complexity.) Typically, when an employee has a high level of task stress in their job, a good manager can help offset it by easing relationship tension. In the days before a tight deadline, a manager might bring in lunch, give more praise, or help offload less critical tasks so the employee’s tension levels allow for peak performance (the top of the Yerkes-Dodson curve) without tipping over into burnout. With a new employee, however, both the task and the relationship areas are stressed as she comes up to speed on the job requirements and tries to integrate into the organization.

There is a real risk that a new employee will be too stressed to be productive, which can lead to increased relationship tension with a hiring manager who expected the new employee to immediately improve results. The mismatch in expectations can cause conflict and lead to an early exit. According to PwC Saratoga’s Human Capital Effectiveness Report 2013/14, 22% of hires, or one in five employees, leave within their first year. When a new hire does not work out, there is an associated financial loss of half to five times that employee’s salary (comprised of search fees, potential negligent hiring suits, wasted training costs, wasted interview time, and productivity loss from disruption and negative morale.) Plus, the company is still faced with the skills gap they were trying to address in the first place

A coach can be brought in early in the process to help an employee integrate into the new organization. A coach can work as a bridge between the new employee and their team, ironing out any integration pains before they grow into major problems. A coach has dedicated time to spend with the new hire and does not have the bias or agenda of a peer. A coach has the skills to help an employee with task stress (through teaching critical thinking, project management and process improvement skills) and relationship stress (through improving a new hire’s relationships with his manager, team and customers.) There is no perfect hire but a business coach can ensure that a good hire can integrate as quickly into a company as possible and begin to focus on their role and results.